Kozhikode: In a shocking instance of official apathy, hundreds of Kerala Police personnel who were assigned election duties in Bihar are being forced to head back home in harsh, inhuman conditions on the Patna Ernakulam Express train.
The 50-hour-long journey turned into a horrendous experience for the 200-member squad as there was a mad scramble for every inch in the compartment to squeeze themselves into any available space. The coaches were airless and smelly and there was hardly any breathing space as the general compartment having 114 seats was shared among 200 officers.
The troop was returning home from Bihar after ensuring peaceful polling in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections in sensitive polling booths vulnerable to Maoist disruption. Many of them occupied the floor while some others fancied a nap sitting or lying on the luggage. Most of them could not sleep a wink at night after working for several days without a break in hot and humid conditions.
The authorities concerned, including the Election Commission of India and the Indian military, did not bother to provide seats in proportion to their numbers, lamented an officer. As the train approaches the platform of every railway station on the route, there is a mad scramble by commuters to get in, he adds.
The two companies attached to the Kerala Armed Police (KAP) 1 and 5 battalions were moved to Bihar for election-related duty under the supervision of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The KAP-5 battalion is headquartered in Kottayam while the KAP-1 battalion comprises officers based in Ernakulam.
Most of the personnel were experiencing fatigue and weariness as they had no time to relax after being forced to travel to Bihar immediately after returning from election duties in Lakshadweep and Kerala. They set off on the journey to Bihar from Thrissur in unreserved compartments on April 26, but it took four days to reach Patna on April 30 as the train ran late by several hours.
We had demanded the Election Commission and the CRPF authorities to book at least sleeper class tickets in advance for our return trip, but that was not heeded, said an officer on condition of anonymity.
The train is scheduled to reach Kerala on May 25.